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Salutatorian Address: The Great Conversation

By: Hannah Stage, Class of 2024 Salutatorian


I would like to recognize what makes this school more than just an academic facility. Veritas is a genuine community that continually pursues a common purpose; to engage in what we know to be The Great Conversation. Mortimer Adler was a 20th century philosopher who, among other accomplishments, developed the Great Books program used in many modern educational institutions. He consistently wrote of “The Great Conversation” as an avenue to bridge the past

with the present. As Dr. Robert Woods remarks in his book, “The Great Conversation is ‘a call to listen to (by reading and discussing) the great ideas found within the great books.’” The Great Conversation is a discussion between highly esteemed authors and thinkers of the past, and those who read and listen to their thoughts in the present in the pursuit of universal truths. Woods goes on to say, “A liberal education is one that engages students with truth by studying how those

ideas have been treated throughout the great tradition.”


It is because of this idea (and many others) that Veritas offers a genuinely unique environment. The way in which we approach learning as a conversation with the past is an attempt to uncover wisdom and truths for the future. G.K. Chesterton wrote, “we are dwarves on the shoulders of giants. We see higher than our ancestors only because we have their shoulders to stand on.” Veritas Christian Academy travels alongside students through the reading and discussion of classic works of literature, language, mathematics, science, and history which have formed the Western Civilization we enjoy today.


In order to grasp these great ideas, we (the students) require individuals who are passionate about exploring them too. What makes Veritas unique is not only the common goal we strive for, but a faculty who view this goal as important as well. I have enjoyed countless Great Conversations during my eight years at Veritas. In Ms. Salazar’s class, I discovered my favorite book, Jane Eyre, and our class wrestled with the quote: “I am a free human being with an independent will”

(Jane Eyre). This one sentence led to healthy discussions about what it means to be a free human being.


Studying ancient language with Dr. Sundt connected me to the ancient history of the Romans through Latin poetry. “Arma Virumque Cano, Troiae qui primus ab oris” (Vergil’s Aeneid). This quote is the opening of Vergil’s Aeneid and is translated as “of arms and men I sing, whom came first from Troy.” This introductory quote was the gateway to deep discussions with Dr. Sundt and my dear friend, Gracie Coe, regarding the Latin texts we dissected together. Through philosophy class with Mrs. Robbins, I discovered how the philosophical ideas of Ancient Greece are connected to pressing concerns in our modern era. In History class with Mr. Hopkins, I began to strengthen my personal worldview through a multitude of debates, the most memorable being on the topic of reformed theology.


The works of Galileo, Sir Isaac Newton, and Francis Bacon allowed me to understand how the world operates through the lens of math and science. I grew to love the Great Conversation. I have discovered that this is a lifelong pursuit that I can continue far after I graduate today. Mortimer Adler said, “The purpose of learning is growth, and our minds, unlike our bodies, can continue growing as we continue to live.”


As the community of Veritas Christian Academy, I would encourage you all to engage in The Great Conversation. To the class of 2024, as we take this graduation day to reflect on our time at Veritas, let us also ponder our future aspirations. Will we continue in the Great Conversation for life? Our seminars have taught us how to debate respectfully and thoughtfully. Will we use these

skills when we are presented with new ideas? Will we apply our curiosity to ask thoughtful questions? Will we become the ancestors that allow our descendants to stand on our shoulders so that they too may connect to the past for their future?


I may add, that the Great Conversation can be more than a pursuit of academics for the rest of life. Whether you attend Sewannee, Wingate, The Citadel, App. State, Hillsdale, High Point, Samford, or take a gap year, the Great Conversation can guide your thought life and relationships with others. This does not simply mean reading old books. It means using the tools we have acquired in wherever the Lord chooses to use us.


We are well educated in the Great Conversation. We are ready to join the future in the triumphs and trials it holds. We are ready to leave Veritas while continuing to remember what we have accomplished. We are ready and well equipped. As the class of 2024 departs, may the Lord continue to sustain Veritas Christian Academy as it seeks to continue the Great Conversation in the years to come.




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